Reforms Have Failed to Prevent Sexual Abuse in ICE Jails, Report Reveals

A damning new investigation by journalists Maria Hinojosa and Zeba Warsi examines how immigration officers have didn’t correctly tackle complaints of sexual abuse from folks held in detention facilities. The report from Futuro Investigates and Latino USA particulars how ladies in jails run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, have been sexually abused, typically in a medical setting when they’re at their most susceptible. It comes greater than a decade after Hinojosa’s report for PBS Frontline about sexual abuse in ICE detention. However allegations of abuse have continued. “Should you complain, you will be threatened,” says Hinojosa, who notes there may be nonetheless “fixed coercion” in detention, regardless of earlier claims of reform.


It is a rush transcript. Copy might not be in its remaining type.

AMY GOODMAN: A warning to our viewers and listeners: This story comprises descriptions of sexual abuse.

We start immediately’s present with a disturbing new investigation into how immigration officers have didn’t correctly tackle complaints of sexual abuse from folks held in detention facilities. The damning new report by Maria Hinojosa and Zeba Warsi, two immigrant ladies and journalists, examines how ladies in Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, jails have been sexually abused, typically in a medical setting once they’re at their most susceptible.

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The report is out immediately from Futuro Investigates, the investigative unit of the Pulitzer Prize-winning information group Futuro Media, and Latino USA. It comes greater than a decade after Maria Hinojosa’s report for PBS Frontline about sexual abuse in ICE jails. However allegations of abuse have continued.

Maria will be a part of us in a minute, however first this clip from the report, when she and Zeba converse with a Venezuelan migrant who was utilizing the pseudonym Viviana for security, describing her first assembly with a male nurse employed at ICE’s Stewart Detention Middle in Georgia.

ZEBA WARSI: Throughout her first weeks detained at Stewart, Viviana had a urinary tract an infection. She was prescribed treatment that gave her a extreme allergic response.

MARIA HINOJOSA: Your face is swollen. Your lips are swollen. You have been unable to breathe. And also you have been feeling extremely scared.

VIVIANA: Ahí es que conozco a este enfermero, cuando me sucedió eso.

MARIA HINOJOSA: She tells us that in that second of complete vulnerability, that’s when she met this male nurse, a brief white man with a beard. And we should always warn you: The next descriptions of her visits are specific. They’re exhausting to hearken to. However we additionally consider that they’re needed to grasp what Viviana and different ladies undergo.

VIVIANA: Me cube como que si puedo bajarme un poco el pantalón para ver “aquí.”

MARIA HINOJOSA: So, he’s utilizing a stethoscope to place it in your decrease physique. So, simply to explain what you’re displaying me is that he takes the stethoscope, and he principally places it proper the place a girl’s ovary may be.

VIVIANA: Y me decía “abre la boca,” y yo “aaah,” abro la boca más, y me decía “aaah” y se reía “ajá ajá” y reía.

MARIA HINOJOSA: Viviana instructed us that whereas analyzing her with the stethoscope, the nurse requested her to open her mouth after which to open it wider. He then stepped away and typed a query into Google Translate. And this made her really feel much more uncomfortable.

VIVIANA: Period algo como si quería saber si tengo novio.

MARIA HINOJOSA: So, at this level, he writes a word to you that asks you when you’ve got a boyfriend. Te pregunta si tienes un novio.


AMY GOODMAN: [Inaudible] had additionally reported they have been abused by the identical male nurse at Stewart. Let’s go to a different clip from the brand new investigation.

MARIA HINOJOSA: So, as soon as ladies began to reach at Stewart, this nurse began seeing feminine sufferers. And Viviana mentioned he began abusing them.

This nurse and his abuse, you consider, was not a secret to anyone who had spent any time inside Stewart, whether or not they have been his colleagues or individuals who have been detained. ¿Tú sientes que todo mundo sabía de este enfermero?


ZEBA WARSI: After that second incident with the nurse, Viviana returned to her cell and broke down in tears. She instructed different detainees what occurred to her.

VIVIANA: Yo llego a estar en la celda y lo empiezo a hablar.

MARIA HINOJOSA: So, you are feeling such as you have been one of many individuals who helped the opposite ladies begin naming what was taking place.

VIVIANA: Y ahí empieza una de Nicaragua, una de El Salvador, y me dicen “me pasó lo mismo.”

ZEBA WARSI: Girls from totally different international locations instructed her that they suffered comparable abuses from the identical male nurse. We’ve reviewed paperwork that present that not less than 5 ladies got here ahead and complained in opposition to the male nurse. Certainly one of them was additionally one other younger lady from Venezuela.

AMY GOODMAN: An excerpt from the brand new investigation known as “Immensely Invisible,” which discovered the sample of sexual abuse complaints in ICE detention goes past the Stewart jail in Georgia. Girls have been solely dropped at Stewart in 2020 after ICE needed to shut down the Irwin County Detention Middle, additionally in Georgia, when a whistleblower nurse there uncovered pressured hysterectomies and different invasive gynecological procedures by Dr. Mahendra Amin, who was contracted by LaSalle Corrections, which runs Irwin for ICE.

In 2020, Democracy Now! spoke to a survivor of gynecological abuse whereas detained at Irwin. Jaromy Floriano Navarro described how she was scheduled for an undesirable hysterectomy whereas held at Irwin between 2019 and September 2020, till she was deported to Mexico, she believed, in retaliation for talking up in regards to the abuse. Once more, a warning to our viewers: Her account is extraordinarily disturbing.

JAROMY FLORIANO NAVARRO: And from day one which I met Dr. Amin, he mentioned, “OK, you want surgical procedure.” He did a ultrasound, vaginal ultrasound, with a wand. And I didn’t even know he was going to do this. To be sincere with you, I didn’t know that I used to be going to must take my pants off or lay on that mattress and let him take a look at me. I didn’t know that. No person ever instructed me that I used to be going have a vaginal ultrasound. …

They took me again to see Dr. Amin from March to July not less than 25 instances. They might take me out always to go see him. He would — he would at all times verify me. If it wasn’t along with his fingers, then it might be with the wand. And to be sincere with you, it was uncomfortable every time. I didn’t like something he ever did. I didn’t like his posture. I didn’t like the best way he stood in entrance of me or rested his hand on my knee as he did the vaginal search or no matter he was doing. And it was uncomfortable, to be sincere with you.

He stored telling me, each single time I’d see him, that I used to be going to have a surgical procedure. However for some purpose, I by no means knew when the surgical procedure was going to be.

AMY GOODMAN: For extra, we’re joined by Maria Hinojosa, the Pulitzer Prize-winning founding father of Futuro Media, host of Latino USA, which collaborated on this new investigation known as “Immensely Invisible,” in regards to the ongoing sample of sexual abuse in ICE detention.

Maria, welcome again to Democracy Now! That is such a harrowing investigation. Speak about all that you’ve realized. That is over a decade after you probably did this large PBS investigation.

MARIA HINOJOSA: Amy, you recognize, we’re journalists. The work that we do is definitely to serve. And we consider, in our work, that once we put daylight, once we put solar — proper? — once we uncover one thing, that as a result of we consider we stay in such a sophisticated democratic nation, that we consider issues are going to get higher. They usually don’t. On this explicit case, on the query of individuals — males, ladies, youngsters — on this case, we’re reporting about ladies — being sexually abused repeatedly at government-run immigrant detention facilities, persistently will get worse, truly. It doesn’t get higher.

One of many issues that we uncovered with this piece with Zeba Warsi from the PBS NewsHour is that one of many issues that ICE is attempting to do is to make use of transfers — it is a time period that now you’re going to start to listen to extra about, these of you who care about this type of reporting — transfers as a technique to take care of immigrants and refugees who’re making complaints, or transfers with a purpose to take care of one immigrant detention heart that’s shut down due to abuse, after which persons are transferred to a different detention facility, the place they’re mentioned, “Now you’re going to be secure. Now you’re going to be secure,” or, “You’re going to be transferred from one to a different, and now issues are going to get higher.” Actually, we now have seen that it’s a type of punishment. It’s a method of shuffling off the issue, not coping with the issue.

Amy, as you recognize, we now have been pals and colleagues for many years now. And after I uncovered the abuse within the Frontline in 2011, it was horrific. Senator Dick Durbin goes on the Senate ground and says, “Due to the Frontline, that’s the reason PREA, Jail Rape Elimination Act, have to be supplied in immigrant detention services.” And right here we’re, uncovering but once more that ICE investigates itself. What’s that? They’re investigating themselves.

And at last, we now have a really particular case of ladies coming ahead, taking company — which is a part of our investigation, proper? — is that they don’t seem to be simply victims, however they’re additionally taking company, talking up, complaining about one male nurse, who, so far as we all know, has not misplaced his license and who sexually abused them repeatedly once they have been seen — the nurse — if you’re in a susceptible — similar to the reduce that we simply heard, which is horrific. When ladies refugees and immigrants are at their most susceptible, that is when they’re being uncovered to being abused by medical personnel. It’s horrific, Amy. I had to enter an entire different collection of remedy due to this publicity but once more.

AMY GOODMAN: So, the Southern Poverty Legislation Middle, Maria, reviewed medical data. They confirmed the male nurse had been working at Stewart Detention Facility, the jail in Georgia, since not less than 2018. What’s recognized about his employment now?

MARIA HINOJOSA: We all know that he has not misplaced his license. We all know who he’s. We tried to speak. Zeba known as him. He hung up. We have no idea — we all know that there isn’t a type of official grievance in opposition to him, nothing that has been legally introduced on by ICE or any of the CoreCivic-run detention services the place he could have labored. So, he’s a predator, and he stays on the market.

And by the best way, Amy, when you’ve got a legal thoughts — there’s a TV present, proper? Legal Minds. You probably have a legal thoughts, you recognize precisely the place to go to discover a job. You go to ICE, as a result of you recognize now that as a result of there may be — they should fill positions, there aren’t even background checks. And you’ve got entry to males, to ladies and to youngsters in trauma, and you recognize that they may greater than doubtless not complain, as a result of, as we discuss on this piece, in case you complain, you’re going to be threatened, like the ladies who we spoke to. They have been instructed that they have been going to be despatched to jail, that they have been going to be deported instantly — fixed coercion and threats.

That is horrific. This, Amy, we all know. Sadly, you and I shall be gone, they usually’ll make Hollywood motion pictures, we hope, about how this was taking place in the US and the way everyone was similar to, “How was this taking place?” It’s taking place immediately.

AMY GOODMAN: Girls who’re abused in detention are alleged to be protected by the Jail Rape Elimination Act, or PREA. Are you able to discuss in regards to the laws and the protections ICE and personal jail companies like CoreCivic have repeatedly ignored?

MARIA HINOJOSA: So, the Jail Rape Elimination Act was created for prisons, proper? It’s a method during which to guard folks behind bars when they’re being sexually assaulted. It’s a method during which they will have type of an unbiased technique to complain.

However this, as we all know, as a result of immigrants in detention — we don’t have the identical authorized rights. Now we have no authorized rights, zero due course of. Senator Dick Durbin was so moved by what we uncovered in 2011 within the Frontline, which you’ll watch on Frontline, on YouTube, that these protections, which is that any person who’s held could make an unbiased grievance, has entry to a technique to make this grievance, to observe up on the grievance, that they’re — within the case of ICE, what Zeba was capable of see has modified — proper? — is that now you’ve the protocol of getting an indication throughout, which is admittedly dystopian, as a result of the abuse continues to occur, however now you’ve indicators all over the place that say, “By the best way, in case you’re being abused, you shouldn’t be being abused, and you’ll name this quantity for assist.” And what we uncovered is, as you heard Viviana and Mari saying, these indicators imply nothing for the people who find themselves being held. Completely nothing. And that’s what’s modified, that now there’s a enroll. But it surely doesn’t imply that there’s a authorized safety for ladies, on this case, who’re complaining in opposition to sexual abuse.

By the best way, Amy, for the immigrants who’re held in detention, the authorized path for them is extremely sophisticated, as a result of, once more, they haven’t any due course of, as a result of, like me, they weren’t born on this nation. And in consequence, you haven’t any due course of, if you’re in immigrant proceedings.

AMY GOODMAN: Nicely, Maria Hinojosa, we’re going to hyperlink to this unbelievable investigation you’ve carried out, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, founding father of Futuro Media, host of Latino USA, the investigation into sexual assault of migrants held at ICE detention jails.

Developing, the acclaimed creator Isabel Allende. Again in 30 seconds.

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